Early Brand Name In Wine

Chateau Haut-Brion was founded in 1533, and was the oldest and smallest of the four First Growth properties in the famous 1855 classification. Samuel Pepys extolled the virtues of one particular claret after tasting it at the Royal Oak Tavern in London. His diary note for 10 April 1663 “Off the Exchange with Sir J. Cutler and Mr. Grant to the Royall Oak Tavern, in Lumbard Street, where Alexander Broome the poet was, a merry and witty man, I believe, if he be not a little conceited, and here drank a sort of French wine, called Ho Bryan, that hath a good and most particular taste that I never met with.” In London in the seventeenth century, Haut Brion fetched 7 shillings a bottle, 3.5 times the price of Spanish wine. The place to drink it was a restaurant called The Pontac’s Head, named by and for Francois-Auguste de Pontac, a wine entrepreneur, whose business flourished in London from 1666, selling the products of his father’s estate, Pontac, and in the words of one wine writer turned Haut-Brion into the world’s first cult wine. It was the first wine to be referred to by name of the château rather than the generic name ‘claret’. But how did Haut Brion maintain its consumption demands and sales in England when every other day they were or were not at war? A bit of smuggling. Of course a blind eye would be turned for the most famous tavern in London so image and status could be maintained for its patrons. It was common to sell the wine to a country not at war with England to get the goods through. Of course smuggling also avoided the hefty taxes and there are invoices for small French and Channel islands habitants supposedly consuming absurd amounts of wine that would easily kill a human in a week.